[linux-audio-user] How to get good vocal sound

Burkhard Woelfel versuchsanstalt at gmx.de
Thu Dec 8 08:46:51 EST 2005

Hash: SHA1

On Tuesday 06 December 2005 14:35, Dave Phillips wrote:
> Bill Allen wrote:
> > I've been struggling with a technique problem. How do you get your
> > vocals to sound good? I know that you can't make a silk purse from a
> > sow's ear, but you can make the best of what you've got.
> Hi Bill:
> You also have to remember that you don't hear yourself the way others
> hear you. I'm not especially fond of my voice, but I know how to hit the
> right notes and other people seem to like it.
> The *sound* of a voice can be effective enough as a carrier of
> personality. Bob Dylan is often used as an example of a not-so-beautiful
> voice that's perfectly suited to his material. And it's worth mentioning
> that Dylan does know how to sing (check out Girl From The North Country).

I'd let somebody else sing first, experiment and learn with his or her voice. 
After a bit of training the feeling of embarrassment wrt my own voice 
wouldn't be so much of a distraction. 

BTW, a few weeks ago a friend of mine told me that he really liked a 
particular song of mine. The voice, he told me, didn't sound like mine at 
all. Isn't that strange, I was really happy about that. 

Oh, the miracles of human perception.

- - Burkhard

> > What combination of plugins and settings do you use to get the best
> > sound from vocals particularly in Ardour?
> As you say, there are many to choose from. I like Tim Goetze's Versatile
> Plate Reverb, it's easy to control and has some sweet spots that
> complement my voice nicely. I also often use the SC4 compressor
> (pre-fade) and the TAP Scaling Limiter (post-fade) on the master track.
> As general advice: Pick an effect, preferably one with only a few
> controls, and learn what each control does to the sound. In the case of
> reverbs, think about the ambience you want to create and make your
> initial settings accordingly. Yes, you'll have to experiment, but IMO
> that's the best way to learn about these things.
> > I know that this is one of those subjective questions for which the
> > best answer is try it out yourself and find what sounds best, but
> > there are so many plugins (an embarassment of riches), each of which
> > has many settings, that a brute force search of all the combinations
> > would take forever - not to mention that after a while, my poor ears
> > become exhausted with the effort and refuse to hear differences
> > anymore. So what I'm really looking for is good starting points to
> > work from.
> It's easy to be overwhelmed: LADSPA, DSSI, VST/VSTi, all provide that
> embarassment of riches. But I figure that the pros don't have the time
> to learn everything about everything, so I don't expect it from myself.
> I think you should plan carefully: think about what sort of sound you
> want to project, think about its characteristics, then start working
> towards it with a minimum number of effects. A little 'verb and some
> judicious compression go a long way towards making a good basic sound, I
> find that for my purposes I use little else. Maybe someday I'll find a
> use for chorus and delays, but they'll probably get used on instruments,
> not on my voice.
> A few random tips: Stand when you sing. Use a pop filter (I should
> follow my own advice). Breathe deeply, you can always erase the noise.
> Don't raise your chin when you try to reach notes on the high end of
> your range, it tightens the vocal mechanism and works against your
> attempt. Relax, you won't sing (or play) well with excess tension.
> Consider your input chain, i.e., decent microphones, preamp if
> necessary, good hot signal, etc. Don't record with effects in, you'll
> fool yourself and it will be harder to fix (I like that Ardour forces
> that behaviour). Key your music to complement your available range.
> WRT planning: Do you want to recreate the sound of a small group playing
> in a bar ? Or a big band performing in a concert hall ? A rock band
> playing an auditorium ? A jazz quartet in your living room ? Each of
> these scenarios has some salient characteristics that you should try to
> describe and understand in relation to your selected effects. Try
> analyzing the vocal sound on some of your favorite recordings in the
> same manner.
> Yes, you have to study up on some terminology, but you don't have to
> become a DSP engineer. That's what we have Steve Harris here for anyway.
> ;-)  And don't worry about understanding everything right away. It's
> enough to know what a compressor does, the rest you'll learn by fiddling
> with settings and *listening* to the results. For instance, I use the
> SC4 compressor but I'm still sort of blank about exactly what the knee
> radius does. Always more to learn. :)
> > One combination that I like is GVerb to get depth and L/C/R Delay to
> > get width. Even with those two getting the settings right takes time.
> > For comunication, I've included a jack rack with some settings I've
> > found that work OK. I would love your critiques and suggestions for
> > other setups.
> GVerb is more complex than I'd advise for a start, but it is a fine
> effect and definitely worth learning. Have you tried Freeverb or any of
> the other 'verbs from the LADSPA collection ? The TAP reverb is also
> superfine (with presets!), but again  I'd suggest something even simpler.
> If you really have problems with intonation and pitch acuity you can
> always try fixing it in the mix with a pitch shifter plugin and Ardour's
> automation control, but that's getting elaborate. You can also try that
> infamous vocal "fixer" from Antares, but I don't know if it will run
> under any of the current support systems for VST under Linux. It costs
> $$ though, and frankly at that point I'd suggest singing lessons.
> You can also use Ardour's excellent editing tools to correct small (and
> not so small?) errors in timing. A bit tedious, but worth the effort.
> I listen a lot to the music made by other members of this list. I love
> the sound of Pete Bessman's F4, I'd like to know how he got it. I'm also
> fond of The Girls, their material is great and their singing is perfect
> for it. I like the overall sound they achieve, though it's quite
> different from my aims. And I'd commit heinous and unconscionable acts
> just to be able to play and sound like Steve Doonan. Lots to be learned
> from the folks using the same software (more or less). So many different
> genres are represented at http://lam.fugal.net, it's a terrific
> resource: if you like a particular piece, you can just write to the
> composer and ask how s/he did it.
> Well, there's my contribution to the thread. HTH. :)
> Best,
> dp

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